In the previous post of this series, Hazrat Inayat Khan began to outline the five aspects of the ideal, the first of these being the ideal for oneself, and he illustrated this ideal with the historical anecdote of a robber who grew tremendously in personal stature.
The second aspect is when a person makes an ideal out of a principle. And when he succeeds in carrying out this principle throughout his life, then he has accomplished a great thing. If he has been able to live up to that principle, then he has everything. And this aspect can also be illustrated by the story of a robber. In the deserts of Arabia there used to be a well-known robber, and when caravans passed through there they were warned beforehand that there was danger in that particular place where he lived. And once when a caravan arrived near there, a man who was very anxious about his gold coins thought that it would be a good thing if he could find someone to whom he could entrust his money. He saw a tent at a distance, and when he came near he saw a most dignified man sitting there smoking his pipe. He saluted him and said, ‘I am anxious. I have heard that in this place there is danger of robbers, and I beg you to keep my coins in your charge.’ ‘I will do it with pleasure,’ said the man, and he accepted them. And when the other rejoined the caravan he heard that there had been an attack by robbers and that they had taken all they could from everyone. He said, ‘Thank God for the inspiration He gave me to give my money in safe keeping!’ Then later he went again to the tent to get his money back, and what did he see? He saw that this dignified man was the chief of the robbers, and that the other robbers were sitting before him dividing the spoils. He stood at a distance, fearing they would perhaps take his life now that his money was already gone. And he thought how foolish he had been to have taken the trouble to bring his money to the robbers himself! He turned to go back, but the chief called him, asking, ‘Why did you come, and why are you leaving?’ The man said, ‘I thought when I gave my money to you that you would return it to me, but now I realize that you belong to the robbers who have attacked the caravan.’ The chief said, ‘What has that got to do with the money you entrusted to me? The coins which you gave into my keeping are your money. It was not robbed, it was given into my charge. I give it back to you.’
This was a principle which the robber lived up to. He is a historical person, and in the end this very man became a great murshid, and those around him became his mureeds. One can find his name among the Sufis of the past. This shows how living up to one’s principle makes a ladder for a person to climb to the desired goal.
The third ideal is the idea of bettering the conditions. Someone thinks, ‘I should like my village to be improved. I should like my town to have all comforts and facilities.’ Or he thinks, ‘I would like my fellow citizens to be better educated, to have more happiness,’ or, ‘My nation should be honored in the world, and for the honor of my nation I will give my life.’ One may think of his race, another of humanity, to better its conditions, to serve it, to be its well-wisher, to bring to it all the good that is possible. The great heroes who have saved their nation through their lifelong service, who have given examples to humanity, who have sacrificed their lives for their people, all had some ideal, they all lived a life which was worthwhile.
As great as is a person’s ideal, so great is that person. It is the ideal that makes a person great, but at the same time if he is not great his ideal cannot be great. Besides, life is a small thing to offer to the ideal, and if life is a small thing, what else is more valuable? Nothing. It is the one who has no ideal who holds on to everything and says, ‘This is mine, and I am very anxious to keep it!’ The one with an ideal is generous. There is nothing that he will keep back; for his ideal he will give everything, and it is that person who is a living being.
To be continued…